Utility to remove trees near reservoir BG&E wants to make room for transmission line.

January 16, 1992|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Evening Sun Staff Frank D. Roylance contributed to this story.

Neighbors of a scenic area near Loch Raven Reservoir, where the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. plans to cut down 10,000 trees to make room for a new transmission line, say they are saddened but resigned to the clearing.

The neighbors have fought previous logging operations.

"It is going to be very ugly," Ajax Eastman, who lives near the reservoir, said yesterday of the seven-mile-long swath that will be cleared. "Trees where we had wildlife, where birds lived, are going to be cut. The wildlife is going to be displaced."

"It is really a shame," agreed neighbor Michael DeFilippi. "We are going to lose some mature, old-growth forest, which is becoming increasingly rare in the state. . . . But I guess progress demands more power."

Baltimore officials, who came under criticism two years ago for logging in the same area to raise cash, stressed yesterday that they were not participating in the clearing, which is to begin early next month.

BG&E has said it will give the city all the logs cut on city property. The gift -- an expected 400,000 board feet of wood -- would be worth between $100,000 and $170,000, said city engineer Bob Guston.

George G. Balog, head of Baltimore's Department of Public Works, said the city has stopped logging the popular hiking area "except for thinning and diseased trees."

Noting that the Loch Raven watershed area is the collection basin for the city's water supply, Balog said: "Our emphasis is to protect the watershed. . . . The environmental aspects are more lTC important than any other."

"The fact that we are going to make money is immaterial," he said.

Although BG&E said yesterday it had received all the permits it needed to go ahead with the logging, Balog said he and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke had not yet issued final approval for some parts of the operation.

Balog indicated that he did not expect any hitches in the application, however.

BG&E said planned additions to two substations, clearing and ++ replanting, and installation of new wires will cost $33 million. BG&E spokeswoman Peggy Mulloy said today the $33 million charge will be spread out over the service life of the transmission line, adding 1 to 2 cents to the average residential customer's monthly bill.

In its announcement yesterday, BG&E said it would double its existing 66-foot-wide transmission line path, which runs roughly east-west through parts of Gunpowder State Park and the Loch Raven watershed. The utility also will cut a 107-foot-wide detour for nine-tenths of a mile between Manor Road and Morgan Mill Road to preserve four houses.

In the spring, the company will plant about 10,000 trees in a 28-acreopen tract in Gunpowder State Park near the transmission line to make up for the clearing.

BG&E said it must expand its transmission lines because demand for power has been booming in the northern reaches of Baltimore, Baltimore County and Harford County.

The two existing lines, which are not intended to carry more than 127 1/2 megawatts apiece, sometimes must carry at least 8 percent more electricity during days of especially high demand, company officials said. In an emergency, each line could carry 255 megawatts, the company said. A megawatt is enough power to light 10,000 100-watt light bulbs.

Neighbors in the Loch Raven area said that, while they have opposed this and previous logging operations, they were reassured by BG&E.

The utility held community meetings to take suggestions and has been "very nice," DeFilippi said. "They have been very reassuring. They are going to do everything to the letter. They said they won't cut steep slopes" or worsen erosion.

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